Alok had organised a cab for us to carry us to Lal Bagh, the Bull Temple, and Tippu Sultan’s summer palace. Sightseeing in Bangalore!
The taxi cost INR 800 for eight hours or 80km. I was surprised, since we had taken very little cash to India because of the rush. We had about CHF 1000 in cash and CHF 300 in Travelle Cheques from a previous holiday. I had hoped that we might be spending CHF 200 per week on ordinary stuff, bought the rest using my credit card. This would have left us a comfy margin. CHF 200 is about INR 6000, so the price of the taxi was on the upper limit of what I had expected. Then again, it was our first day, and we had planned to take it easy for the first few days. So off we went.
Lal Bagh is a big park, with a collection of roses, a little lake with lotus flowers, a glass house (which we did not see), and many tourists. It turned out that many of these tourists were interested in taking pictures of us! Several groups asked us to join them and be part of the pictures they were taking. After the first request took us by surprise, we decided to ask for a picture in return.
In this respect, the Hindu culture is clearly a lot easier for tourists than an Islamic culture were people would feel uncomfortable when taking pictures of them, specially old and traditional people which impressed me the most when I was in Morocco. Here in India, with so many people wanting to take our picture, we felt no hesitation to take a lot of pictures ourselves.
From Lal Bagh, we went on to the Bull Temple. The walk up the hill was surprisingly short, maybe 100m, and the temple was much smaller than expected. Our first experience with taking off shoes when entering temples, our first Hindu priest in India, our first impression of temple architecture: Heavy stones, dark shadows, flickering candles, walking around the center of the temple in a little aisle with other people, making a small donation to the priest, strange thing about these Gopurams (domes above the entrance to the temple courtyard).
On the way out, we see something that we’ll see a few more times: Big groups of female Indian tourists. School classes?
We then drove to Tippu Sultan’s summer palace. (Tippu Sultan was the son of Haider Ali; he led the resistance against the British towards the end.) The palace was closed. We decided to go and see Cubbon Park instead.
The cab parked in front of the high court of Karnataka, just accross the Karnataka parliament building, Vidhana Soudha, and the new equally pompous Vikasa Soudha. Then again, Karnataka state does have about 70 million inhabitants, which is a bit less than Germany and about ten times as much as all of Switzerland, so we really need to adjust our expectations. It turned out that we’d be running into similar situations a lot: The sheer size of India, the incredible number of people living here, just boggles the (European) mind.
What confused me to no end when Indians talk big numbers was that they don’t use “our” system of thousands, millions, and billions: They use their own system where 1 lakh is 1E5 and 1 crore is 1E7. See Wikipedia:Indian numbering system and compare with the two conflicting western systems at Wikipedia:Long and short scales.
In the evening, we went in search of Coconut Grove in Church Street. We must have missed it two or three times, doing the rounds, up Church Street, back on M. G. Road, Church Street again. We were just about ready to go for a Chinese restaurant when I finally saw it. Indian streets have so many small shops, and not just on the ground floor, and not just on the main road, and they all have big colorful signs on the main road. It’s a jungle, and it’s hard to find a single specific job unless you know where to look.
Coconut Grove was a our first Indian restaurant. The guide book had described it as expensive but worth the money. And so it was, for INR 500 we had excellent food. Our first time with banana leaves as a plate. We took our time and when Jenny called, we were still at the Coconut Grove. She told us to stay there and she’d come and meet us.
Together, we went to Commercial Street, in order to buy “material”: Silk saree, material for a saree blouse with matching color (in a different shop), and finally to a tailer who worked in a little tiny room without windows together with two or three young men helping him, down a sidestreet and behind two other houses.
After handing over the material and discussing the cut of the dress, the folds of the saree and the details of the blouse, we returned to M. G. Road, paid the driver, and waited for Alok. We bought an off-the-shelf Sherwani for about INR 7000. I was quite surprised at the price, but since I was able to pay with the credit card, I didn’t worry so much. Still, this trip was going to be more expensive than I had expected with all these people at home claiming how cheap everything would be. Little did I know that our appetite would grow proportionally!
In the evening, Jenny and Alok invite the two of us for dinner at Ebony’s on the 13th floor of a mall/hotel. We’re having Indian food, they’re having French food. We have an interesting view onto Bangalore and the parade grounds. It is dark and hazy, and at the end of our dinner it starts to rain.
We walk home in the rain after waiting in vain for it to abate. It stops when we’re wet.